My post-Christmas Caledonian Macbrayne's Skye to Lochmaddy ferry, was full to its mezzanine gunnels with families, friends and tourists. Weather and ferry delays are a natural hazard but well worth battling to enjoy an Outer Hebridean Hogmanay. The celebration of the last night of the year, Hogmanay, is the most important of Scottish traditions. My father had no recollection of joyful Scottish Christmases in the 1950s, when Scots worked over Christmas per se but he had fond memories of an Aberdeenshire end of year winter solstice feast. It is only within the last generation that Scotland has embraced Christmas.
First-footing is a custom associated with Hogmanay and is well described in a Companion to Scottish Culture by Alan Brunford. Other practices included cleaning the house, removing the ashes from the fire and paying off debts before midnight. A first-footing rhyme was commonly sung, the last verse of which is here:
Hogmanay, troll lol lay,
Gee's a piece o' pancake and let us win away.
We neither cam' to your door to beg nor to borrow,
But we cam' to your door to sing away sorrow.
Get up, guid wife, and shake your feathers,
Dinna think that we are beggars,
But boys and girls come oot to play,
An' to seek oor Hogmanay. Taken from Rise up, guidwife.
On Hogmanay, no door was locked or hospitality spared. In many places a piper announced the arrival of the Hogmanay beggars. First-footing is still common in Scotland and with the first foot in the house after midnight, comes coal, salt, black bun and a wee dram of whisky. The great doyenne of Scottish baking, Sue Lawrence has a lovely recipe for black bun in her book Scottish Baking . Baking travels around the houses with generous ease but my relatively new Hogmanay pudding doesn't. It does however, marry retro childhood memories of baked Alaska with Christmas leftovers. I first made this pudding on the Isle of South Uist, where necessity is often mother of my culinary inventions, especially when food supplies are weather-limited. That said Caledonian Macbrayne continue to do their very best and as I type it's blowing an absolute hoolie - bravo the rescheduled 2.00 a.m. sailing - through a window of calmness.
Hebridean Hogmanay Alaska
The seaweed, laver is optional but as with many seaweeds, the flavour is very, very subtle when baked. I use dried seaweed as a Christmas spice in my Christmas pudding, cake and mincemeat mixes.
c450g leftover Christmas pudding
c10 tablespoons soft ice-cream
4 large egg whites
250g caster sugar
Tablespoon dried laver (optional)
Spoon 2/3rds of the ice-cream to line a 2 pint jelly mould or pudding dish lined with cling film. Heap the Christmas pudding in the centre, so that it is cased by ice-cream. Pop the remaining ice-cream on top to parcel the ice-cream. Freeze for an hour and then turn the frozen pudding out on to a freezer- and oven-safe platter, removing the cling film as you do so. Return the pudding to the freezer.
Pre heat the oven 220C Gas7.
Meanwhile, make the meringue. Make a cooked Italian meringue if you want to. Place the egg whites in a clean bowl and use an electric whisk to beat the whites until they form stiff peaks. Gradually whisk in the caster sugar and whisk until the mixture is stiff and glossy. Fold in the dried laver.
Remove the pudding from the freezer and work quickly to clad it in laver meringue.
Cook the pudding for about five minutes until the meringue is lightly browned and eat immediately.
There is a recipe for brown bread ice-cream using toasted wireweed and coconut milk, in Seaweed in the Kitchen.